Persistent prayer

Pilgrims leave notes of thanks for answered prayers at Wieskirche in Bavaria, Germany, August 2005

Pilgrims leave notes of thanks for answered prayers at Wieskirche in Bavaria, Germany
August 2005

“The value of persistent prayer is not that He will hear us, but that we will finally hear Him.”William McGill

It’s all too easy for believers and unbelievers alike to confuse prayer with some sort of divine bargaining system, or a kind of formal ritual for advising God what we need — as if God were a cosmic host or waiter taking requests.  Most believers would never consciously describe it that way, but we do fall into the trap of oversimplifying the power of prayer — which most of us know from experience to be very real — as direct cause and effect: “I asked for this, and I got it.”

Sooner or later, though, when enough prayers go unanswered, even the most unselfish and altruistic of them, we have to come to terms with the inadequacy of this understanding.  Over time our prayers evolve from some version of “Let me tell you what I need,” or “Let me tell you what the world needs” to something more along the lines of “Tell me what I need to know (or do or think) about this, and help me hear clearly what you are saying.”

This is not to minimize the assurance and comfort that come from prayer, but it does refocus it, from the faith that we will get what we are asking for, to the faith that God will be with us no matter what happens, and everything will be made right in the end.  Ultimately, that’s a much greater solace than clinging to the delusion we are in control of things and will get everything we want, simply because we have a relationship with God.

When I thank readers of the blog for praying for us, and say that we are seeing that your prayers being answered, I don’t mean that we think your prayers will be sure to make Jeff cancer-free (although that may be one divine blessing that comes as a result of them).  I simply mean that your prayers on our behalf are already blessing us with the strength and confidence that come from our shared faith in God’s promise to hear us.

I know a lot of people would call it denial in the face of a really grim prognosis, but I believe that Jeff will beat the cancer and live many more years.  I don’t think God ever has to worry about long odds.  But I also know there is a very real possibility that Jeff might not get well (and he seems to know that better than I do), and if that is how it ends up, the prayers you are praying for us right now, and the warm expressions of caring, will give us the strength to see this situation through.

For walking with us during this difficult time, for helping me to feel less alone, for greeting me each day with words of encouragement, for your kind thoughts and comments and your steadfast prayers, we are thankful.

“May the Lord repay you for what you have done.” (Ruth 2:12)

32 Comments

  1. HarryS

    “God, help us to help you to help us. “:-)

    I received a great blessing from a total stranger in church one Sunday many years ago as we exchange the peace and he said, “from his spirit, to your spirit, for his spirit”.

    • Yes, it really does help to think of it that way. Our younger son (now 28) has developmental disabilities, and I have often told him “I can’t help you unless you help me help you” which I usually end up saying when he is having trouble with something but resistant to our help. Going through these situations with him has helped me understand that dynamic a bit better.

  2. The Glass Bangle

    Julia, do you realise how much solace we get from your words ? I look forward to your posts and reading them makes me feel calm. You are like a very good friend consoling me and making me feel that someone cares. Not only my prayers but a whole lot of love comes your way…

    • Thank you so much for that wonderful compliment. It makes me so happy to hear my writing described that way. I really appreciate your prayers, comments, and support of this blog – all ways of showing the love you mention. I really do appreciate knowing when or if my writing has helped anyone. I hope you will continue to enjoy the blog!

  3. Barb Seibel

    Julia those words are an inspiration, thank you.

    • You’re welcome, Barb, thanks so much for letting me know!

  4. I look forward to reading your blog every morning. I always come away blessed. Today’s is a beautiful sharing and encouragement, because it shines with faith. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a light in this shared journey to truth.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words and encouragement. I never know, when I write something, whether it will make much sense to anyone but me. When it does, I feel so happy. I really appreciate your visits here and your comments; my readers are a light to me as well.

  5. Lovely post. Keeping you always in my prayers and drawing comfort from knowing I am in yours. God bless.

    • Somehow my first answer to you got lost yesterday – I guess I can blame it on the distractions of having a grandson nearby! I wrote to say how I treasure the memory of our families going to Wieskirche (and so many places) together, and thanks for making that wonderful weekend in Bavaria a reality for us!

  6. In Charleston, we all read this blog; then engaged in corporate prayer.

    • Thank you!

  7. merry

    Julia, thank you for your inspiring words. When we pray, we’re talking with God and we’re comforted by His words. Do we expect answers to our prayers? Yes. Will we receive what we ask for? No…not entirely. But we will receive comfort.
    Blessings to you and Jeff.

    • Thanks, Merry. I find that prayer becomes more comforting the older I get, especially sometimes when all I can manage is to tell God how tired I am. Those can be the most comforting prayers of all, just feeing understood and loved. Thanks so much for being here with us!

  8. Sheila

    Julia, praying is so comforting. We grew up saying “The Moravian Blessing” before our meals. It ends,”And bless our loved ones everywhere, and keep them in thy loving care. Amen.” I love that prayer and it really can be said anytime, anywhere! Thank you for your blog,your friendship, and for letting us walk with you and your family. Love,Sheila

    • Sheila, thanks for sharing that prayer – I had never heard it but it is fitting for any situation. Your steadfast presence here is a real comfort to me! I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.

  9. Thank You, BeLOVE Julia. As I praying and reading this morning, remembered the song “Even If” by Kutless and words Baby Esther’s father posted on their blog asking for prayers for their newborn the day she went home; He was able to title his post: “OH, HOW HE LOVES US!!

    • Kate, I had never heard this song, but I found it here and WOW, what a perfect theme song for our family right now. Thanks so much for telling me about it. Yes, he does love us through it all, even when we can’t see or feel his presence.

  10. Mike Bertoglio

    I also liked the Emmet Fox quote that, “If prayer is to mean anything then we cannot believe that nothing happens when we pray.”
    It seems there is also an element of mystery at work. The answer is there- yes, no, not now.
    And I say also-” Hey Lord work with me on this one.”

    • Yes, I often ask God to just bear with me when I have very little to say. Perhaps those times are when the most is happening, and we just don’t see it.

  11. It’s always hard to know, that someone you care about is suffering and one can feel quite helpless. If I can bring just one moment of relief to your day, that makes my day. Your faith is inspiring, I’m not sure I could be so devout if dealt the same hand. I see by many of your visitors here, you are surrounded by love and support close to home and I so happy for that.

    • Thank you so much! You have brought so much sunshine to me, not only with your love of life which I share, but also with the beautiful “surprises” that seem to arrive at just the right time! Oddly enough, with very few exceptions when the stresses were mostly emotional and/or psychological, I find that faith is much more relevant in the times of trial. The prayers and encouragement that come from others are like life jackets keeping us afloat. When the big waves hit we may have a few seconds of coughing up water and sputtering for breath, but somehow our heads stay up enough for us to survive. Thanks for being with us here through all this!

  12. Carlyle

    Julia,
    As i read your blog, I could not avoid the thought that I have been successful in adding to your understanding of prayer. You have got it right. Remember what I have repeated so often: The only prayer I ever have answered immediately is my request for the “peace of God which passes all understanding that keeps my heart and mind through Christ Jesus>
    Philippians 4: 7

    • Daddy, you are right about your teaching us to pray. I remember after Matt’s first open heart surgery, when he was a tiny 18-pound infant not yet one year old, that when we all gathered in the chapel to say “thank you” when the doctors told us he had survived and the surgery was successful, even in the prayer you led then, you mentioned beforehand that we would not always be spared from sorrow, and prayed that we would have strength to endure whatever trials our family faced in the years to come. And we have faced many just in our immediate family, more than I would have wanted to know about that July day in 1986. Thanks to you and Mama for walking a very long and winding road with unwavering faith. I pray you both will be walking ahead of us on that road for many more years — but if not, your example will always be leading us.

  13. Mike Bertoglio

    Thankyou for your blog. i.e. previous comment-can’t think of anything you have written really that did not make sense- very clear.
    Finally got a hold of copy of McCulloughs bio of John Adams. A hefty work- indeed.

    • Thanks Mike, I hope you enjoy the John Adams bio as much as I did in the HBO version (Confession: I have the book, but have not yet read it!) I have read several others of McCullough’s books, though. I don’t think you can go wrong with him.

  14. MaryAnn

    Your immense love for God & all His blessings, which you are so good at praising His name for, are a great witness to your walking in faith! I believe you are “holding to God’s unchanging Hand”. Thank you so much for the depth of your thoughts & the places you take us in your beautiful words. I love you & all “my” Dentons.

    • Thank you Mary Ann. You are walking right beside us! 🙂

  15. Amen! Well said. 🙂

    • Thank you, my fellow DAILY blogger! 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. How to Face the Trials of Life with Prayer
  2. Nowhere else to go | Defeat Despair

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